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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Chapter 11 | Summary

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Summary

The woman, Mrs. Loftus, invites Huck in. He says his name is Sarah Williams and tells her a story about his circumstances. She starts talking and eventually gets to the news of the day, which includes his death, Jim's escape, and Pap's disappearance.

Mrs. Loftus fills in the details. At first the townspeople suspected Pap as the killer, and he was nearly lynched. After Jim escaped the townspeople believed he killed Huck. There are rewards out for the capture of both men. Mrs. Loftus has seen smoke coming from Jackson's Island and suspects Jim is hiding there. Her plan is to tell her husband when he gets home, so he can go search the island.

The news shakes Huck up. He picks up a needle and thread and does a poor job threading it. Mrs. Loftus gets suspicious and asks Huck his name again. Huck gives a different name than the first time. He realizes his mistake right away but is unable to cover up. Mrs. Loftus continues to test him and eventually recognizes he is a boy. Huck confesses that he is and comes up with another story. Shortly afterward Huck leaves and rushes back to Jackson's Island.

While at the island Huck tells Jim what is going on. They quickly pack their things and set off on the raft they rescued from the river. Huck leaves a decoy campfire burning.

Analysis

Once again Huck shows his intelligence. His ability to think on his feet and come up with a logical story is impressive. His resourcefulness is a skill that he will use throughout the novel. A reader cannot help but wonder if the listeners' belief of Huck's stories is an indicator of their gullibility or naïveté. In a "smaller" world where information travels slowly, people are less worldly, cynicism is not as rampant, and lies are more easily passed off as truth. Once Huck is thrown off his game by Mrs. Loftus's suspicion about Jim being on Jackson's Island, he forgets his own story. One challenge with lying is remembering the truth from the lies.

Mrs. Loftus is genuinely kind toward Huck even when she catches him in a lie. She accepts his second story and offers her assistance. However, her kindness ends when it comes to Jim. His servitude and ill treatment are something one would expect a kind woman to be concerned about. But Mrs. Loftus is a product of her times, so Jim is automatically viewed as a slave and someone's property. As a result his feelings and concerns are not taken into account.

From one perspective Huck has no need to be concerned about leaving. If he were found people would be happy to see him. From another perspective, however, Huck sees no alternative but to leave, especially once he realizes that some men will be visiting Jackson's Island to find and capture Jim. By escaping with Jim, Huck is choosing to abandon the morals of his society.

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